Religious Discourse in Post-colonial Studies

Author: Alfaisal, Haifa Saud
No other study explores the topic of religious discourse from within the context of postcolonial studies. This book uniquely analyzes two novels from very different contexts, Guatemala and Sudan, to illustrate that there is a profoundly problematic area within the ‘ethical purchase’ of postcolonial studies. It relates this problem to the ‘magical realism’ label that is applied to various postcolonial fiction. The book demonstrates this problem within postcolonial studies by critiquing the works of some of the foremost postcolonial critics. The study ends by bringing theory down to reality when it asserts that because of the differences between societies and cultures as they stand today, and with postcolonial studies lacking the necessary theoretical apparatus to deal with these differences, cultural contact is bound to elicit violence in one sense or another.


“This book tackles the far-from-easy relationship between indigenous religious discourses as represented in the novels of very different and challengingly contrastive postcolonial societies, Guatemala and Sudan. The Introduction broaches the fraught nature of any such ambition and closely inspects the terminology to be employed. The study accepts both postcolonialism’s discomfort with religion as a viable counter-hegemonic source and the established inadequacy of such a commonly abused term as ‘magical realism’. It nonetheless successfully explores Miguel Angel Asturias’ Hombres de maíz/Men of Maize and Al-Tayyib Salih’s Bandarshah with a view to saving these important novels from any sidelining potential within current postcolonial studies. The challenge is: does postcolonial theory so derive from a materialist base that any discourse of transcendentalism must be excluded from its scope? ...” – (from the Foreword) Professor Bernard McGuirk, University of Nottingham

“ ... the great strength of this work is where Dr. Alfaisal analyzes these two extremely complex works. Hombres de maíz is a work which has been recognized as central to the study of Latin American literature but often considered atavistic or peripheral; Bandarshah is a work which is hardly discussed either as an African, Arab or Islamic text, so ruthlessly does it evade these categories. This is where Dr. Alfaisal’s work is so stimulating and ground-breaking – she suggests that the precast mindset of postcolonialism cannot cope with works that are truly indigent. To do so, it would have to take on board the centrality of the religious world view of the postcolonial world. This it can never do because to do so would actually destabilize its own raison d’etre ...” –Jacqueline Kaye, Professor Emerita, University of Essex

“Writing from the perspective of an Arab to whom religion cannot be ignored as a determining factor in the discussion of the postcolonial condition, Dr. Alfaisal’s study can be divided into two distinct, though complementary, parts: a theoretical part – her examination of indigenous religious discourse in postcolonial studies, and a practical part, where two novels, belonging to two different cultures, and hence, two religions, are analyzed with the sole purpose of proving that neither can be studied in isolation from the indigenous religious discourse that made it possible ...” – Professor Abdel Aziz Hammouda, Cairo University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Bernard McGuirk
1. Postcolonialism and Indigenism
2. The Writers
3. Hombres de maíz: A Twentieth-Century Popol Vuh
4. Indian Resistance in Guatemala
5. Bandarshah: Salih’s Memory Rite
6. Sufism in Sudan
7. Disarming Religious Ideology
8. Religious Discourse in Postcolonial Studies
Appendix 1: The Sufi Paradigm
Appendix 2: Factoring in Islam
Appendix 3: Islamism and Tariqa-Way